It set out a number of requirements to the Russian authorities aimed at ending the conflict, and underscored that failure to meet them will bring about a review, at the Assembly's next session (3-7 April), of Russia's participation in the Assembly's work and its membership in the Organisation in general.
The Assembly held an urgent debate on the conflict in Chechnya, based on the report by Lord JUDD (United Kingdom, SOC) and opinions by Rudolf BINDIG (Germany, SOC) and Tadeusz IWINSKI (Poland, SOC), with the participation of Russian Foreign Minister Igor IVANOV.
The parliamentarians condemned the current conduct of military operations and demanded both the Russian authorities and the Chechen side to introduce an immediate and complete cease-fire. While recognising Russia's right to preserve its territorial integrity and fight terrorism, the Assembly stressed that the means used must be in accordance with the country's international commitments. They must exclude indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force affecting the civilians, which causes suffering of innocent non-combatants in Chechnya and violates their fundamental rights to life, liberty and security.
The Assembly recalled that as a Council of Europe member, Russia committed itself to settling international as well as internal disputes by peaceful means and that it is obliged to ensure respect of the European human rights convention, the rule of law and democratic principles on its whole territory, including Chechnya. The parliamentarians reiterated their support for all efforts aimed at restoring the rule of law in the republic and its social and economic structures, as long as they are in accordance with internationally accepted norms.
The Assembly strongly condemned all terrorist acts, kidnappings, public executions and human rights violations committed in Chechnya. It urged the Chechen elected representatives to ensure the release of hostages and respect of democratic principles on the territories under their control, stop acts of terrorism and violence and bring those responsible to justice.
The parliamentarians called on Russia to stop immediately indiscriminate and disproportionate military action, including use of young conscripts, and to start a political dialogue with the elected Chechen authorities. They urged it to cease attacks against civilians and respect the civilians' rights, allow those wishing to leave Chechnya to do so in full security and dignity, and refrain from any forced repatriations. Russia was asked to allow for the unhindered delivery of international humanitarian assistance and operation of humanitarian organisations, to ensure free access by the media to the region and its independent operation, and to initiate a regional dialogue on the peaceful solution of the conflict.
The Assembly asked the Committee of Ministers to take measures for a Council of Europe presence in the region, examine human rights violations in Chechnya at its next meeting and review assistance and cooperation programmes with Russia to make sure that they help to find a solution to the conflict. The Committee of Ministers was also asked to support Russia in implementing peaceful policies in Chechnya conforming to Council of Europe principles and to play an active role in preparing a regional conference in North Caucasus.
Dmitri Marchenkov, Council of Europe Press Service
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